The harsh reality for every athlete, especially in team sports, is that one day careers come to an end. Eventually, the days of competing side by side with teammates, hanging out in the locker room, running out of the tunnel on game days, celebrating wins, and walking off the field together after tough losses are over.
Thankfully, there’s another activity that can get the competitive juices flowing and help replace the many elements missed from no longer being on a team - fantasy football! Although managing a pretend football team isn’t the same as being the one scoring the touchdown or making the tackle, there is significant value in the camaraderie of playing fantasy football.
A fantasy football league is a small group of 8 to 14 owners. By being connected weekly for an entire NFL season, league owners not only have the opportunity for fun, but also for developing authentic relationships and a purposeful community. Here are four ways that can happen:
In today’s fast-paced world and maxed-out schedules, time for friendships get squeezed out. However, being in the same fantasy league provides an on-going reason to stay in touch with friends. There’s always something to talk about during the season, and the momentum to remain involved in each other’s lives often carries over throughout the year.
Just as being on a sports team naturally creates a connection that leads to relationships with teammates, the same can be true in a fantasy league (even if we are competing against each other)!
Have an entry point for deeper conversations
Having fantasy football conversations with a group of friends is a blast, but thankfully that doesn’t have to be the only topic of discussion. Talking to other owners in the league about fantasy opens the door to have deeper conversations. We already have a common bond and a similar interest because of fantasy, so we become comfortable sharing about what’s going on in our lives.
This, of course, requires genuinely caring for each other while being transparent and intentionally going beyond the surface in conversations. We can initiate interaction with another owner regarding a potential fantasy trade, but then actually ask the owner more meaningful questions. Philippians 2:4 (ESV) says, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
Just like teammates who celebrate the wins and deal with the losses together, fantasy football owners can do the same when it comes to the highs and lows in life if they’re willing to be open with one another. Galatians 6:2 (ESV) tells us to "Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
Fantasy gets the conversation started, but the deeper communication builds lasting friendships and allows us to be there for each other.
Meet togetherFor athletes, there’s nothing quite like a locker room where conversations are private, you get things off your chest, and encouragement and motivation are given. We long for this and still need this even after our playing days are over.
Hebrews 10:24-25 challenges us to “...think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another…”
Fantasy leagues can specifically create this type of environment and a new way to intentionally do this is by using The Fantasy Football Fellowship Playbook at “league meetings.”
This practical resource is geared toward helping leagues engage in meaningful fellowship and cultivating accountability. Each session of the playbook gives a fantasy concept relating to life and the Bible, and it promotes discussions involving personal situations, life struggles, and faith journeys.
Grow in faith
We aren’t designed to live life alone or in isolation, so being in a fantasy football league can lead us toward a stronger faith when we’re surrounded by those who point us toward Jesus and by those we can point toward Him.
If we allow fantasy football to only be about winning our matchups each week and drafting the best team, we are wasting our time. We can still compete at a high level, but during this year’s fantasy season, let’s choose to play with more meaning and purpose...building Christ-centered relationships and using fantasy football conversations to springboard discussions about faith and life.
For more ways to bring Jesus into the conversation and have an impactful fantasy season, check out The Fantasy Football Fellowship Playbook_._